5.2 Reasons for conducting an audit

Compliance audits assess the level of compliance or performance in relation to a set standard. Information collated through compliance audits can assist in the protection of matters of environmental and social significance and reduce the risk that serious issues will arise or compound without being detected. By demonstrating that there are systems in place to measure and improve compliance, audits also increase public confidence in the regulatory system.

Since the late 1980s, environmental auditing has become a common management tool in developed countries, and is increasingly being applied in developing countries both by foreign and local industries and by governments. It is being applied across the whole range of industrial and commercial activities, from the smallest enterprises to the largest resource projects (including mines, refineries, smelters and chemical plants), as well as government service organisations (such as transport systems and defence establishments). Social auditing is more recent and has been evolving since the early 2000s.

Environmental auditing is gradually changing in its nature and scope and it will continue to do so as environmental issues emerge and gain significance for the community, industry, commerce and governments. This leads to important changes in the environmental auditing process and to a proliferation of different types of environmental audit to satisfy different needs, as well as the publication of numerous standards, guidelines and codes of practice for environmental auditing.

The reason for conducting an environmental audit is to assess environmental risk and establish mitigation measures to minimise that risk. An environmental audit may be conducted or required by a mining, mineral processing or refining operation; by a parent company of one of its subsidiary mines; by a lending institution financing the development or expansion of a mine; or by a government agency exercising its regulatory powers.

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